All Member Stories

Sharon C, ATP & Monte Bello Collector Member

I moved to Cupertino to work for HP after college in the 80’s and lived right below Ridge on Montebello Road. Along with a few friends that enjoyed wine, we visited your old little building and tasted Ridge wine and joined right then. Since joining, I’ve moved back and forth between California and France and have always taken my Ridge with me. While in France, I had friends receive my club shipments and give them to me when I visited. Opening up Ridge zinfandels and cabs next to French wine was always enjoyed and Ridge stood up wonderfully. Ridge is like my trusty security blanket, opening up a Ridge always lifts my mood and brings back all the wonderful memories from the beginning of my wine journey.

Earl M, Monte Bello Collector Member

I’m currently only a Monte Bello collector but was an ATP and Z List member at one time. I was first introduced/collected Geyserville in the mid-1990’s. The fruit forward but nuanced wine was a taste-bud sensation for a novice and the Z-list helped to explore Draper’s zin world. In the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, when my wine budget was bigger, I began collecting CA cab and Monte Bello was on top of the list. Back then there was no Wine Searcher, and Google was useful but not ubiquitous. Only few wine stores had inventory on web sites. SO, there was great pricing disparities to take advantage of. If I was traveling I would always stop at wine stores to check out the prices – I collected single bottles from everywhere always saving a few bucks a bottle – a nice treasure hunt! AND, back then you could carry wine onto a plane. My business partner and I were in London about 2002 for meetings. We discovered a wine store in London offering ’96 Monte Bello for 75 USD which we thought was a great price. My carry-on return luggage was 18 bottles! I declared it with Customs and back then there was a tax on alcohol based on volume, but the guard and I were not up to the math and he let me go because I was bringing Ridge back into the US!

After Robert Parker’s tasting trips to Europe, he wrote that he enjoyed going home to Maryland and ordering dry-aged steaks from Lobel’s in Manhattan. Being a NY-er who was unaware of Lobel’s, I couldn’t have imagined a better recommendation and I became a big fan until my cardiologist recommended I slow down. Nevertheless, every summer I invite my CT wine-o friends over for a menu of summer’s bounty that never deviates (simple and allows the wine to be front and center!) and includes seafood appetizers, followed by charcoal-grilled Lobel’s NY Strips with corn-on-the-cob, ratatouille, and salad – all served outside on the back porch (it’s March in CT and it’s time to think warm thoughts!) And on July 23, 2016 because it was Paul Draper’s retirement year, we celebrated with a vertical tasting of Ridge starting in 1990 through 1997. I think the volume consumed of awesome wine impacted the picture-taking quality! That was an incredible string of great years and it was impossible to pick a favorite.

My son was born in 1999 and I have 3.5 cases of 1999 Monte Bello still sleeping. Hope he does something real soon to celebrate!

Great wine, great education, great memories!

Mark D, ATP Member

I moved to San Jose in 1978 to study engineering at San Jose State. That same year my brother graduated from UC Davis (Biochemistry) and moved to Michigan to do his post doc.

Because of the overlap in curriculum my brother had several friends/classmates at Davis who were studying enology. One of those friends (a name I can’t remember) started out as a cellar rat at Ridge.

Whenever my brother talked to this friend he reported back on all of the good product coming out of and good things going on at Ridge. Unable, at the time, to acquire such things in Michigan he started asking me to make runs up there to pick up different bottlings for him. Because I wasn’t yet 21 initially had to get friends to make the drive up there with me to pick them up. I can still remember the small tasting room under the old barn/building.

After making several such trips I decided I had better start tasting what it was I was fetching. The rest is history!

Some of the wines from that time that really stuck in my mind and which have lead me to where I am today include the 1977 Lytton Springs and 1978 Eschen (was it called Fiddletown back then?) Zinfandels.

As soon as I graduated and got a solid job I immediately signed up to be in the CP (which was a great program). All these years later we’re till in the club (although I’ve been in and out once or twice). I was originally in the CP program, then just the ATP and for a while the Z List.

Ken C, ATP Member

I was introduced to Ridge Zinfandel wines by my uncle (an early collector of Ridge wines) in 1969 shortly after returning from a year abroad as an exchange student in Switzerland. I can recall buying Geyserville Zinfandel at the first Trader Joe’s in Glendale, California. Great prices! However, my story involves a return to Switzerland in the late 1980s or early 1990s. We were visiting one of the Swiss brothers that I lived with in 1968. He was at that time a member of the Swiss Parliament. We took a few bottles of California wine to share with him and another friend from the exchange student days. However, we hung onto a 375 ml bottle of Geyserville that we had also packed. I dont recall the vintage but likely from the late 1970s or early 1980’s as by that time I had and still have an extensive cellar. Upon departing the Baden and Basel areas where my friends lived my wife and I decided to spend a few days in Zermatt. We bought a bit of salami and a French cheese at the local Migros grocery store and took the train the Zermatt. On the next day we took the Gornergrat Bahn about 1/2 way up the mountain deciding that hiking down would be preferable to hiking up. In the early afternoon we found a bench looking towards the Matterhorn and opened the half bottle of Zinfandel along with the cheese and salami. The cheese was so stinky that it immediately was discarded but the salami and Geyserville (drunk from the bottle as we had no glasses) along with the clear view of the Matterhorn made the day. For me it was a great return to Switzerland where to this day we have great friends as well as a memory of the Alps I will never forget. Today I still have a few old Geyserville Zins in the cellar (1992 and 1995) along with 6 liter bottles of Monte Bello 2005 and 2006. I have opened countless double magnums of both the Geyserville and Lytton Springs with friends over Thanksgiving and at Wedding celebrations but that little 375 ml bottle and the view of the Matterhorn is my favorite Ridge memory. Prost.

John C, ATP, Z List, and Monte Bello Collector Member

We all come to Ridge for its remarkable diversity of wines, right? Of course, we love our cabs, zins, and everything else that the company produces. We expect high quality, consistency, and creativity, and Ridge delivers time and again. That should be enough for any wine lover, but I can tell you that I stay year after year after year because of its staff and the company’s willingness to let its customers peek behind the scenes and learn how the magic is made. They answer our questions, take in our comments and make us feel a part of the family. And, while I can buy fine wines at many vintners, only with Ridge evokes that personal connection. It’s more of a friendship than a business relationship.

Don C, Member

We’ve been Ridge wine club members for decades – first and still, the ATP, and later and still, the Z-List. That being so, most of our best memories come from those early days. 

We’ve experienced three generations of tasting rooms at the Montebello site – the current uphill one in the barn, the earlier expanded and remodeled one that is now your sales counter, and the first (original?) one. We very fondly recall that tasting room – small, intimate, kind of rustic, funky. Most of the regular tasting pourers knew us by name. A tasting then had a family feel that only enhanced the tasting experience. We miss it – tasting events these days (well, pre-Covid)) are much larger, more crowded, and because of that, of necessity far less personal. The pourers behind the counter are still friendly, but there’s an unavoidable distance due simply to the scale of things. Some of that earlier personal feel has been recaptured by the reservations-only pandemic tastings, where a single pourer presents the entire tasting to a group’s table, but only some – it’s not the same.

We also miss the member special events that were held at Montebello back then – excellent live music, delicious food, an atmosphere like a small country fair. The more recent pre-Covid tasting events at both of your locations still have wonderful wines and delicious food, but the feeling of community is much diluted. That’s one of the prices of success.

On the plus side, we really like the current overall design and landscaping of the Montebello site, but more as a matter of esthetics than of intimacy – it’s a beautiful place to be. And the very long roofed outdoor seating area at the Lytton Springs site offers gorgeous views, and the entire facility is a glowing testament to renewable energy and conservation. All of those things count.

Best of all, the quality and variety of Ridge wines has, if anything, only improved over the years…which is undoubtedly the main reason for the increased number of Club members and the crowd size at events. And the Montebello Assemblage tastings have been especially memorable, both for the wines and also for the discussions of them with your winemaking staff. Ridge also keeps finding new, excellent vineyards to purchase grapes from, and keeps making small-lot wines of excellent and distinctive quality. Few other places do that, and it’s what we value most about our wine club experiences. We’re happy to be members, and expect to remain so well into the future.

Keep up the good work.

John S, Member

I’m a co-founder of Ridge Computers in 1980. That led almost immediately to the pleasure of learning about Ridge Vineyards. We named the company Ridge because I and another founder, Ed Basart, frequently bicycled to the top of Montebello Ridge. A printed version of Ridge Vineyards’ newsletter, predating the web, sometime in the mid-1980s to 1990s has a picture of Ed and I with our bicycles in one of the Montebello vineyards. I have lost my copy unfortunately.

There are many interesting stories involving the two organizations. One is the introduction of our system in France by Group Bull, a French computer company partly owned by the French government. They planned to serve Ridge wine at the introduction event in Paris. We arranged with Ridge Winery to ship the wine, which became stuck in customs until the partly government-owned company made a few calls. The wine arrived in time to be enjoyed at the event.

Brad C, Z List Member

I have been a Z-List member since 2007. However I had happily discovered the wines of Ridge over 25 years before joining. 

Approximately 4 years after I began what has become my life long study and enjoyment of all types of wine, I found an interesting bottle of wine made by Ridge at a price that today is amazingly laughable. It was 1979 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon. This blockbuster red was an incredibly aromatic, rich, velvety, complex fruit packed Cabernet which was unlike anything I had tasted previously. Over the ensuing years, my wine buddy Steve and I searched out every bottle of this glorious wine that we could get our hands on. We later learned that due to its degree of ripeness and high alcohol (over 14%) it was not deemed suitable for Monte Bello’s more restrained style. 

After this, I sought out Ridge wines wherever I could find them. When the law changed and Ridge could be shipped directly to my state, I was delighted to join the Z-List. 

Since then I have been a dedicated fan and advocate of all things Ridge. In my 40 years of drinking Ridge wines, I have never gotten a flawed or compromised bottle. I cannot say that about any other wine producers product.

As I near retirement age, I have learned that few things in life can be depended upon in the long term. However I have often been heard to say that, Ridge wines and customer services are among the handful of things that I know I can count upon beyond the shadow of a doubt!

Larry M, ATP & Z List Member

I first learned of Ridge Vineyards in early 1983 when I gave a piano recital at a home on Montebello Road. Later that year I participated in Day in the Vineyard, helping with the fall harvest. The growing season had been complex, so there were disparate grapes on the vines, some ripened, and some which were not suitable for the vintage. We got a crash course in choosing which grapes to harvest, but it wasn’t many years after that that Ridge chose to hire professionals, as 1983 was one of few undistinguished vintages.

I also had the pleasure of hearing the Ridge Quartet play at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, which was meaningful to me as I had gone to the same high school in San Francisco as one of its members.

Gordon & Jeanelle Q, Monte Bello Collector Members

My wife and I love Ridge wines! In fact, my wife always tells friends that if she is ever stuck on a desert island and can only have wine from one winery, it will be Ridge Vineyards. Each Ridge wine is better than the next. So, it’s really no contest.

Our love affair with Ridge Vineyards began in 1979 when we lived in northern California. We loved to take weekend drives up to the winery, taste what was new, make friends and enjoy a picnic lunch while looking out over the south bay. There was no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Over the years we have had memberships in many wine clubs, but Ridge is one of only two that we have kept active since joining. We love that we can purchase Monte Bello futures and put the bottles away to be enjoyed for many years. We have stayed with Ridge all these years because we quickly realized that every vintage was exceptional. We have never opened a bottle that disappointed.

One of my favorite memories is the evening we shared our love for Ridge Monte Bello with 20 of our best friends. My wife arranged a dinner party for my 70th birthday. No one sent regrets because they knew that we would be serving excellent, nicely aged California red wines. After champagne and hors d’oeuvres we sat down to dinner and unveiled the 2007 Ridge Monte Bello. It was a special evening. Each of our guests drank more wine than they should have, raved about it, and then UBERed home. The Ridge Monte Bello delivered. From that evening on, no one has turned down an invitation to a dinner party at our house!

Ron O, Z List Member

Our neighbors, originally from Oakland, picked grapes with Paul Draper in the early 1980s and have an excellent Ridge collection. My first Ridge was a Geyserville in 1973 so I have been a long-time fan. I have a less extensive collection but a suitable selection. Time to drink wine and what better time than Valentine’s Day! We gathered with another wine loving couple and decided to do a deep dive into the collection. Our selection for the evening is included. Our oldest was a 1980 York Creek Cabernet. The crowd favorite was a 1981 Howell Mountain Claret which can only be described as soft and beautiful. It was impossible to finish the list in one dinner so another will be planned. Thank you Ridge for years of exceptional wine which fosters great friendship. And finally…we all agree…Never change the label.

William F, ATP & Z List Member

It was 1982 and I had recently started working for a small geologic and soil engineering consultancy in Los Gatos. There were four or five of us, including my boss, working out of a small second story office in the downtown area, A man showed up at the office one afternoon and he was lugging a hand truck up the stairs with about five cases of wine on it. He and my boss exchanged some greetings and pleasantries, had a few laughs, and then he unloaded the wine and left. I asked my boss what that was all about and he said that was Paul Draper, the winemaker up at small winery called Ridge Vineyards located up on Montebello Ridge. He then went on to explain that he had done a small job for Paul about a year ago when they were expanding the winery and helped with the foundation design. Paul hadn’t paid the bill as cashflow was apparently tough back then, but he came to pay the bill (with interest I would think) with the five cases of wine. I wish i could recall what the wines were, but i bet there was at least one case of Monte Bello cab in the lot.

Joanne T, ATP, Z List, and Monte Bello Collector Member

We have belonged to Ridge’s wine clubs for close to three decades. We first discovered Ridge at the annual Zap event at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Their bright full-bodied Zinfandels appealed to our tastes very well. We soon branched into the Monte Bello Cabernet.

One of our favorite events at Monte Bello was barrel sampling where we met Paul Draper and enjoyed a lovely conversation about his wine making and his Samoyeds that was with him at the tasting. We were also Samoyed owners at the time. Excellent cabernet. And the view from the top is extraordinary.

Another fantastic time was when we hosted a private wine tasting and a tour at Lytton Springs for our friends. We enjoyed a fabulous tour of the vineyard, learning much of the winery’s history. Our tour guide, Bob, educated us how to tell the grape varietals apart by looking at the leaves. We had a picnic lunch on the patio after enjoying more Ridge wines. The day was perfect. I have included a photo of our Lytton Springs tasting.
Ridge wines are consistent and always meet your expectations and beyond.
Joanne and Ralph Thomas

Tom N, ATP & Monte Bello Collector Member

In 2004 I was largely a beer and liquor drinker who was intimidated by wine lists and had never been to wine country. The woman who would become my wife loved wine and had visited wine country numerous times. She arranged a trip to Sonoma that included a tasting at Ridge Lytton Springs. I was immediately hooked- the entire setting made me feel that while I was only 100 miles from home, I was a million miles from work (a feeling that has stayed with me to this day). Following the tasting I joined the ATP club, my first wine club membership, and picked up the current shipment that included the 2002 Late Caboose. When I tried it at home I was blown away. It smelled like I stuck my nose into a damp earthy funky wine barrel, but the taste was sublime. I decided I must buy more (another trait that has stuck with me to this day is buying too much wine!) The next Sunday I drove to the Monte Bello tastuing room and asked if there was any Late Caboose for purchase. Alas, there was not. I was told that it was a controversial wine. Some members loved it while others did not. Unfortunately, like all ATP selections, it was made in a small amount and all of it had gone out to members. Not to be deterred I returned the next Sunday. “Is there any Late Caboose for sale?” I asked. My server said “You re a few minutes too late. That gentlemen over there is leaving with the last 2 bottles.” Now I knew there was Late Caboose out there, I just needed to find it. So I returned the following Sunday (anyone who has been to the Monte Bello facility knows how crazy the drive is- going 3 weeks in a row shows how driven I was to get this wine). This time the answer to my question was “We have a case in the back. Don’t know where it came from but it yours if you want it.” I did want it and I bought it. My delight was tempered by worries that perhaps my love of that wine had more to do with my newness to wine drinking and that I would be disappointed, after all that effort, when I tried one of my newly acquired bottles. With some trepidation I opened one and tasted it. Eureka! It was just as I had remembered. I drank that case slowly over the next year as I started adding more wine to my collection but I will always remember it as the first wine that ever made me want to get more of it. My wife and I are now members of both the ATP and Monte Bello clubs and consider Ridge one of the finest wineries in California if not the world. The quality and value of the wines, the beauty of the tasting rooms, and friendliness of the staff make it a Go To winery whenever we are in wine country.

Jim S, Monte Bello Collector Member

Two quick stories. First, I started making wine with five friends in 2011 and we put our first zin in barrel the morning of the Montebello assemblage tasting and took a half bottle to the tasting. We asked Eric Baugher, who was pouring a terrific aged Montebello in the picnic area, if he wanted to give it a try. He did and said it tasted respectable and then asked “You put it in American Oak, right?” Well, we had just put it in a French Oak barrel. So we learned that lesson the hard way. Second, several years ago my wife and I hiked from the Montebello preserve parking lot on Page Mill road to the Ridge tasting room on Montebello Road and had a great tasting and then hiked back. The hike was about ten miles roundtrip, but with a great stop in the middle. We signed the bottle we bought at the tasting, and put the date on it, and still have it for a special occasion. Great memories.

David B, Z List Member

Our family’s first experience with Zinfandel was Famiglia Cribari jug zin served at my wedding. Little brother got drunk, etc. Anyhow, a few years later I remember bringing my first Ridge Zin to a family barbeque. New worlds opened. My Dad (who had quit drinking) would still always have a sip or even a small glass when I brought by a Ridge. Your Zins still blow us away. I really enjoyed your winemaker Zoom meetings during the lockdown.

John P, ATP, Z List, and Monte Bello Collector Member

My history with Ridge began with the 1984 vintage of Monte Bello. I was immediately smitten, and to this day MB remains, in my opinion, the best cabernet blend in California (and by extension, one of the best in the world).

In thinking back, I define my affinity for Ridge wines generally, and Monte Bello specifically, with the memories I associate with individual bottles. I’ve given birth-year vintages to each of our kids (1986 and 1988), bought a case of the 2005 as a wedding year wine for my wife, Jen, and I, and we still enjoy a bottle on our anniversary from time to time.

More recently, I remember opening the 1991 and 2001 Monte Bellos as part of some charity dinners that my wife and I donated for a live auction at a local charity in the LA area, where we cooked several 8 course dinners for 8 people, with wine pairings from our cellar (for the 1991 Monte Bello, we paired the wine, along with a 2002 Arns Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, with Braised Short Ribs in a Port/Cocoa Sauce with Celery Root Puree).

And lastly, I often enjoy noting where I see Ridge wines as my wife and I travel the globe. Most recently, just last month, we were in Stockholm, and happened into a wine and cheese shop for lunch. Up on the wall were several bottles of your 2013 Lytton Springs Zin. I can only imagine the stories that go with the presence of these bottles in some of the locations.

Year in and year out, the wines are simply beautiful, thanks for reachinig out for the comments of loyal collectors like myself, and congratulations on your 60th anniversary! I hope to enjoy your wines for decades to come!

David H, ATP & Z List Member

My first Ridge wine was a Geyserville ordered in 2000 as our fifth and last bottle at a biz dinner in SF. After all those bottles of cab and rioja (I’m talking Spring Mt and VS Unico’s) the Geyserville was a brilliant introduction to a new and beautiful world. I was blown away. Perfume, complexity.

That was quickly followed up by visits to Litton Springs, and I am probably one of the few people who remember all three Ridge tasting rooms there. While the present one is beautiful, the first one was a no nonsense and very cold tasting room with its own utilitarian charm. Even the temporary 2nd room (trailorish) was good.

For some reason Sandy at Litton Springs had a bottle of 1991 Monte Bello opened, and that really blew me away. (I hope I’m not getting her in trouble by saying this…. I think she had just had some teeth pulled and was hurting a bit) I bought a bunch of 750’s and a bunch of 375’s. I just drank my last 91 this past December, and it was still shining. Probably my favorite American BDX wine of all time.

The wines all continue to shine. Perhaps when Paul first retired, I detected a bit more wood in some of the reds, but that lasted only a year or two. Harmony is back and the place is doing great.

Thanks Ridge, Paul, and Otusuka-San for keeping it all together.

Jom S, ATP Member

I had recently gotten together with the love of my life, Joe, and we made a stop at Ridge on his first trip to California on our way to Mendocino.

Dave S, Z List Member

My first time I went to Monte Bello to taste their wonderful wines,I brought with me the book “Angels Visit “ by the author David Darlington . I asked Paul Draper if he would autograph the book for me. Paul was so nice, he said he would be happy to sign the book. Soon after, I started going to the ZAP Zinfandel tastings at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I again brought the book with me to one of the ZAP tastings and asked both David Darlington and Joel Peterson to autograph the book. They did and I will always cherish reading about Zinfandel and of course love drinking Zinfandel.

Mike D, Monte Bello Collector Member

Growing up a wine lover in the Santa Clara Valley, really too many great memories to list. But here are a few;

  • Discovering the joys of old vine mixed black wines with Lytton Springs and Geyserville in the 70s
  • Sharing a bottle of 1975 Monte Bello with friends in Houston in the 90s
  • Learning about the assemblage process through numerous Monte Bello events
  • Observing Dave Gates climb down a 12′ hole and describe the soil and geologic influence at Pagani Ranch at a Historic Vineyard Society vineyard tour
  • Sitting between Paul Draper and Joel Peterson and listening to them describe the nuances of aged Zinfandel at a HVS dinner at Chez Panisse
  • Sharing a bottle of 2002 Monte Bello with my son and fiancé in Park City in the Summer of 2021
  • Looking forward to opening a bottle of 2018 JImsomare Zin tonight!

Ridge has been central to my wine enjoyment for over four decades. Happy birthday Ridge!

Warren D, Monte Bello Collector Member

in 1993, maybe 1994, I was head of sales for a start-up oncology drug distribution company (OTN) in South San Francisco. My CEO every year gave me a stretch goal and if I met that goal, we would go to Beltramo’s in Menlo Park and I could select a case of wine. Well, I hit the goal and one of the bottles I selected was a 1991 Monte Bello. 1991 happened to be the year that my first daughter was born so I decided to keep that bottle and drink it with her when she turned 21. Over the ensuing years, I had two opportunities to drink the 1991 and it both cases, it was divine.

Well, MaryLynn turned 21 and on the night we had slated to enjoy the Monte Bello at a local Marin restaurant, I could NOT locate the bottle. I have a stand-up cellar and for the life of me, I could not locate it. Did someone abscond with it? Had I drank it and not remembered? Luckily I had another 1991 Cab (Dunn) that we enjoyed but I was still frustrated by the missing bottle.

A few months later, I open the cellar door, randomly grab a bottle and shockingly, there it was. How did I miss it? Had someone played a joke on me? While the riddle has never been solved, the wine was as remarkable as I had hoped and I now have a small vertical of Ridge Monte Bello.

Kevin L, ATP, Z List, and Monte Bello Collector Member

I was an undergraduate at Stanford in the 70s. My advisor spoke of Ridge late-harvests fondly. Back in the 70s Zinfandels were much more affordable than Cabernets – undervalued it is fair to say. I would purchase a mixed case once or twice a year – just to make physics studies more tolerable. There was a strong connection between Ridge and Stanford in those days.

I returned to the Bay Area after graduate school and a post-doc. The connection to Ridge was strengthened. My wife and I were returning from the North Coast one weekend. The MG just took the turn to Lytton Springs. I’d visited Monte Bello several times, but the MG seemed to just find the Lytton Springs winery on its own. Back then the tasting room was a door across several barrels. It was wonderful to speak to people who just took an hour off the vineyards to discuss wine with us. I’ve enjoy Ridge for the following 45 years. It has been a Christmas eve dinner regular all these years.

William O, ATP Member

I attended the Northern Sonoma ZAP Lytton Springs/Ridge Tasting at the Lytton Springs winery in 2003. Attendees were asked to bring a wine from Lytton Springs/Ridge to taste. There were wines from back to the late 70’s covering most of the years since then. It was a fantastic tasting and one of the best wine events I ever attended. There were a few wines over the hill but by far the majority clearly showed how well these wines aged. Also, Paul Draper was there.

Michael M, ATP Member

I am a long time ATP member. Back in the middle 1070’s I was a graduate student at UCSF with no money. I found wine shops with free tastings and so I learned what might be some day. I first tasted Ridge then. Fortunately years later I found myself back in the Bay Area and now with much improved finances. I joined the ATP then. Paul Draper was my wine hero. I wrote to him once and he answered! For a birthday a few years ago I invited friends to help my wife and I drink the 3L bottle of 2008 Geyserville (see the photo). You’ll note, it is signed by Paul. A treasure as is every delivery of the ATP.

Sandy H, Z List Member

I’m a Z List member, but over the years I have belonged to each of your wine clubs. Back in 1987 I was working at The Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, and was becoming educated for the first time about wine, and fine dining. It was a terrific experience. One of the many famous customers we had on a regular basis was Julia Child. At the time, I was a single mom and didn’t make much money, but I asked one of the knowledgeable salesmen working in the wine shop, “If I could only afford to belong to one wine club, which one do you recommend?” Without hesitation he said, “Ridge. They produce probably the best wines made in America.” I have been a happy wine club member ever since.

Philip T, Z List Member

When I first started drinking serious wine, around 1990, I signed up for the Z List club. I enjoyed getting all the great Zinfandels for about 10 or 12 years. But my tastes changed, and while I still enjoyed a bottle of good, aged Zinfandel on occasion, my “inventory” kept increasing,

In 2003 we moved to a new house, and my wine storage capacity was reduced. After I had placed most of my collection in my wine cabinets I found that I had 8 cases of Ridge Zinfandel that I had no room for.

At about that same time my daughter had graduated from CAL and was renting a large house with 3 close friends in Berkeley.

I “donated” my 8 cases of well aged Ridge Zinfandel to my daughter.

Those kids drank very well for the next two years!

Philip T, Z List Member

In around 1992 a local wine shop in Long Beach went out of business; they auctioned off their inventory. In one of the odd-lot cases I “won” were two bottles of 1974 Ridge Monte Bello.

I drank one a few months later and was blown away by how spectacular it was.

In 1994 my wife and I celebrated our 20th anniversary, and we drank the other bottle, 20 years old. Again – spectacular. I told myself: I need to start buying these. It took a few years before I convinced myself that I could afford to sign up for 6 bottles per year.

I always try to wait until they are 20 years old before drinking, but sometimes I will drink one at 10 or 15 years for a special occasion.

Last year, in May of 2021, I celebrated my 70th birthday with a group of friends. I brought 2 bottles of my 2001 Ridge Monte Bello to dinner. An enjoyable time was had by all…

Tim D, ATP & Z List Member

By my rough math, I have been a Z List & ATP member for 30+ years. When last I was in the Geyserville tasting room, I asked one of your wonderful employees if they could tell me exactly how long. After searching on the computer for a few seconds, her response was “Our member records don’t go back that far”.


In the mid-’80s, in my ’20’s, having enjoyed the big round Inglenook bottles (1.75?) of California Cabernet and French Colombard, I wanted something more. While walking through a Macy’s “Cellar”, when they sold wine, the iconic, simple but dramatic Ridge Zinfandel label screamed, “Buy me, you will NOT regret it!”. I did and it became an epiphany wine for me.


To this day, Ridge occupies 25% of my cellar, and while I have favorite releases, I am never disappointed. When asked for wine recommendations by those looking to expand their experience, yours is always the first label out of my mouth.


Thank you, Paul Draper and everyone at Ridge for asking for my experience and for all the pleasure you have shared for so long!
Cheers.

Wayne H, Monte Bello Collector Member

In the early 90s, my wife and I rafted the entire Grand Canyon. On that trip, we met Paul, his wife Maureen, and their daughter Caitlin. At that point, I was very happy with Bartles&James wine coolers. Paul brought some Montebello – a taste I had never experienced. After several days, I really started to like it. When I got home, I went to order some – and was shocked at the price. I have since learned to love great red wine, yet I blame Paul for getting me into good wine. He has cost me thousands of dollars!

Ralph P, ATP, Z List, and Monte Bello Collector Member

I’ve been collecting Ridge since the early 90s, and have learned a lot while enjoying some really great wines, developing new respect for less common varietals (petite syrah, mataro) and even ubiquitous quaffables (zin), seeing how Paul & co. can elevate them to higher levels of expression. Due to cellar space and liver function constraints, I’ve pared down my recurring membership purchases to just the Monte Bello, which I truly enjoy not just as a blockbuster cab blend that compares favorably with most of what I’ve had from Napa, and even much of what Bordeaux has to offer, but that it comes from right here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Thank you, Ridge, for making life a little fuller and richer. As for the pic of a recent bottle, yes that is a pizza box, and no, I have no shame.

Tim B, Monte Bello Collector Member

We remember going to a Monte Bello Assemblage event in Cupertino one year, perhaps 7+ years ago. Paul Draper was ata table with his 2 dogs, she wandered over and spent 15-20 minutes talking to him. He was polite and engaging and made our afternoon.

John D, ATP & Z List Member

My first contact with Ridge was in the 1960s when a friend who was an investor poured this fantastic wine out of a bottle whose label was hand-written on adhesive tape! It was so early in the winery’s history that you hadn’t printed labels yet!

A bit later, in the summer of 1971, I took an acquaintance – a Belgian count – when I drove up to the Monte Bello winery to collect a case I had ordered. I hadn’t tasted that wine, so the winemaker – Paul Draper, I believe – insisted I taste it before paying for a whole case of it, and opened a bottle NOT part of my case. The count and I both loved it, and with the comment that he “wasn’t about to pour this for tomorrow’s tasting tourists” the winemaker GAVE us the opened bottle and we spent the rest of a lovely summer afternoon sipping Monte Bello cab and watching the view.

John K, ATP & Z List Member

This is a very timely request. I have been a member of ATP since 1989 and also participated ed in the now merged CP program. I am also a member of the Z list. Over the years I have done many tastings to introduce the value and quality of Ridge products. I’m not certain of the actual count but I have well over 1000 bottles of Ridge wines in my cellar with the overwhelming majority being Zinfandel. I have way too many stories regarding tastings. One occurred yesterday, 2/2/22. I was recently asked how long one should cellar a Ridge wine. I chuckled and replied that I seldom open one less than five years after receiving it. Case in point, I found two bottles of the twentieth anniversary York Creek Zinfandel, circa 1982 in my cellar. Wanting to cheer my wife prior to an upcoming medical procedure I chose to pop the cork on one of these gems. I decanted it for an hour before a group of our fellow oenophile’s tasted it.

Incredibly, the wine was a bit closed at first but after sitting another three hours it had blossomed into an absolutely wonderful wine. Yes, the acids had mostly run their course but enough remained to offset a beautiful ripe cherry/cigar bouquet. The flavors were wonderful in the mouth with a relatively long finish. Few at the table could believe this was a 40 year old California Zinfandel. It just added to my long standing argument that one should never give ip on Ridge wines. They age with the best.

Paul B, Monte Bello Collector Member

My wife Andrea and I celebrated our 25th anniversary this past August. On special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays, we like to open up special bottles of wine connected to the celebration. We have collected many special bottles from our wedding year of 1996, and decided to open a 1996 Ridge Monte Bello which was a perfect match with a truly special celebration. It was my single favorite wine opened in 2021 and believe our last remaining bottle of Monte Bello from the vintage will still be alive and well, like my wife and myself, for our 50th anniversary.

Michael S, ATP & Monte Bello Collector Member

John, one of my dearest friends and best wine buddies, near the beginning of our relationship in the mid ’90s, gave me a copy of David Darlington’s book “Angels Visits” because he knew of my interest in Zinfandel. It was from that book that I learned of Paul Draper and Ridge Vineyards, and on a spring afternoon in 1999 we opened at John’s dining room table a bottle of 1994 Ridge Monte Bello. It was my first Ridge wine (not his) and we were both mesmerized by the power and elegance of the wine. We drank it over the course of several hours, but the memory of that bottle has lingered with us for well over 20 years as one of our best wine experiences. He and I both became Ridge members shortly after that and we’ve shared hundreds of bottles of wine, many of them Ridge, and had great experiences at both the Cupertino property (assemblage tastings, tastings led by Paul Draper) and the Geyserville property (Geyserville dinner, pickup events). I look forward to drinking more Ridge (Monte Bello and others) with John for years to come. Thanks to Paul Draper and the entire Ridge Vineyards family for producing great and memorable wines and for the earnest hospitality that is shown whenever we visit.

Ted S, Monte Bello Collector Member

I first started going up to the Monte Bello location of Ridge in 1981. I have so many amazing memories from that early time. The tasting was outdoors on a “church table”. We’d taste a few wines (usually the ATP wines), select a bottle, take it out to a bench up the hill that overlooked the valley, and settle in for a little picnic lunch of cheese and charcuterie. Simple pleasures in a simpler time for Ridge. I’ve basically been a member of Ridge in one way or another since then. While things have gotten slicker, the friendliness of the staff remains the same.

Ruth D, Monte Bello Collector Member

I’ve been an ATP member off and on over the years, but consistently a Monte Bello collector since about 2007.

I remember my first trip to Ridge was in early 1976. My husband and I took my mom up for a tasting. That winter was WET. What I recall, besides the great wine, was the perilous mud we had to trudge through to get to the barn. It is (happily) a VERY different experience visiting these days!

Richard D, Monte Bello Collector Member

We have been fans of Ridge for over 20 years. At first, we were enjoying your Zinfandel, Cabernet, and Chardonnay. Then we had a taste of Monte Bello and were able to become Monte Bello Collectors starting with the 2006 vintage. Once our collection was almost aged properly, we had a very nice dinner with family and friends with a seven year vertical from 2006 – 2012. Great memories.

Thank you for the viticultural and vinicultural passion.

Gary S, ATP Member

I moved from Illinois to California in August of 1983. A College Buddy of mine and his wife had just moved into their first Home in El Granada. They invited me over for my first California Thanksgiving. Keith was bragging about Ridge Red wines and opened a bottle of Ridge 1979 Paso Robles Zinfandel. It knocked my socks OFF!

Soon thereafter I visited the winery and signed up for the ATP program. I also became an early ZAP member and sort of remember the many GREAT tastings at Fort Mason.

Timothy T, ATP & Monte Bello Collector Member

I was dating a woman from Fishkill, NY when i stopped in Viscount Liquors in a small strip mall where Mays was the anchor store. It was here that a man was giving samples of his wine. The wine was phenomenal so I purchased a bottle to bring to her. The year was 1995. The wine was a Ridge Lytton Springs. The fella serving was Paul Draper. The woman is still my wife, Shannon. We have been loyal members of the wine club ever since. Forever Grateful

Tom & Cindy D, ATP, Z List, and Monte Bello Collector Members

My wife, Cindy, and I had our second date (before we got married in 1985) at a Ridge wine tasting in Huntington Beach in 1983. We signed up for the ATP and CP (Cab Program)- I don’t believe that the Z List had evolved yet. We have received at least 2 bottles of Ridge wine each and every month for almost 40 years! Early on we did not drink much wine- we found closets and other storage areas to “hoard away” the Ridge wine. When we remodeled our home in Orange, CA, in 1990, we built in a 2000 bottle wine cellar (we had obviously changed our wine consumption habits!). We had all this Ridge wine salted away some of which we had consumed. We began taking it down into the wine cellar and the nooks began to fill up. At the end of the consolidation we had over 300 bottles of Ridge wine in our cellar. We even had a couple bottles of old Monte Bello that was part of the old CP program. Ridge is one of our very favorite wines and when the subject of zinfandel comes up among friends the conversation immediately turns to the question of “have you been in Tom and Cindy’s wine cellar?- they have the best Zin there is!”

WE LOVE RIDGE!

Dan R, Monte Bello Collector Member

Served at my daughter’s wedding on the shores of Crystal Lake (northern Michigan)…a perfect day and wedding with outdoor reception enhanced by a great bottle

John D, Member

My first encounter with Ridge was in the early 70s when a friend brought a Lytton Springs Zinfandel to dinner. Then in the early 90s, my wife and I were staying at Skylonda in Los Altos, a spa retreat specializing in hiking. One of our hikes took us through rolling hills to Ridge where we stopped for lunch and a tasting. Needless to say, the hike back lseemed effortless. We started buying Montebello futures shortly thereafter and consider it one of the world’s greatest reds. We also love Montebello Chardonnay.

Ed G, Member

We first discovered Ridge 26 years ago, just before Jean and I got married. We bought a case of Geyserville to serve at our wedding, and during the rush to get everything ready to go to the wedding venue, we forgot the wine! Luckily our good friends were able to stop by our house on the way to the wedding and rescue the wine. Only one bottle was lost during the wine delivery as the price of the timely delivery.

John H, Member

My fondest memories of Ridge date back to the 1990s. From 1994 to 2000 and again from 2002 to 2004 I worked for other Otsuka companies. Otsuka was an excellent employer and without question our best benefit was the discount on Ridge wine. Wilma Sturrock was a good friend back then and whenever I had reason to be in the Bay area I would contact her and she would arrange a private tour and tasting. We tasted some exceptional wines and although I am no longer an Otsuka employee I am still a faithful Ridge customer.

Larry B, Member

Too many stories to tell over 42 years however the best is 25 years ago when my brother-in-law lived in Geneva, Switzerland and was accustomed to drinking Ridge Zins from my cellar in Willow Glen (San Jose). He discovered a European distributor that could obtain Ridge Zins. While working as an attorney for the World Trade Association, he was invited to a variety of parties and high-level meetings. As a token of his appreciation to the variety of hosts, he brought some of his Ridge wines to such events. Not accustomed to rich Zinfandels, he instantly became a celebrity as diplomats invited him to all sorts of events, mostly to indulge in his Ridge donations. Needless to say, this was quite a coup given that Geneva is on the border of France and there seems to be French wines available in quality and quantities. Best Tasting – Ridge horizontal 1993 Zins at the Plumed Horse with Paul Draper – 10 Zins

Thomas R, Member

I have been drinking Ridge wines since the mid-70s. My first visit to Ridge was in 1977, when I was fresh out of grad school. I had little cash then, but I did pick up one bottle of the 74 Montebello cabernet for, if if recall correctly, $10. I didn’t have a great place to store it and I think I drank it in 1980 or so….way too young.

Another notable bottle – Ridge made Gamay for a short period of time – I had a bottle of a 73 or 74 that I drank while at the Hollywood Bowl,, listening to music. It was a GREAT bottle of wine, and I was disappointed to read Paul Draper’s comment on the bottle that this was the last time Ridge would be making this wine – really not a focal point. for the winery. Gamay at one time was made by a number of wineries in CA – not any longer.

It also may surprise people to remember that even Ridge had to go the white Zinfandel route about 1980, due to the white wine boom and the surplus of red wine grapes. That is when Sutter Home went from being a boutique provider of red Zins to the winery it has now become. I am grateful that Ridge did not take that path.

I did pick grapes one year when Ridge used to do that – the 1983 vintage. We picked Cabernet on Montebello Ridge, and the first hour was really romantic. The second two hours, not so much.

Happy 60th Anniversary!

Gary W, Member

We have collected Ridge for years and currently have over 300 bottles of it in our cellar. (Drank a 2006 Lytton Springs Zinfandel yesterday on my birthday and it is still holding up in 2022) My wife and I were married in 1994 and we began collecting wines that would age from that vintage for us to enjoy each year on our anniversary. We added a few cases of 1994 Ridge Monte Bello because we knew they would age for a long, long time. Now 27 years later, we are still married and the Ridge Monte Bello is still tasting amazing! Many of the other 1994 wines have fallen off but the Monte Bello remains an amazing part of our anniversary dinner! I wish my old body held up as well as the Ridge!!! Keep making amazing wine!

Martin W, Member

Our son Timothy, our only son; we have 3 daughter’s ; has moved forever to California to work in silicon Valley and he and his lovely wife Jayne and 3 boys now live in Almaden Valley just across from Ridge. We first became acquainted with the brand with a visit and tasting and were bowled over by monte bello.

We live in England so only see them at most twice a year and I was looking for something special to give him when we came across your annual subscription scheme of 2 bottles each vintage. He now has a complete flight from 2009 although some singles from the pair have been consumed!!

He has allowed me to take one bottle of MB back to England from 2010 which we are consuming at a special dinner with 4 friends.

We try and come over for a tasting on most visits but COVID has meant we haven’t seen you for 3 years.
It is a real pleasure for my wife Philippa and I to gift Tim your wonderful wine and to hear how much he enjoys it.

Tom H, ATP, Z List, and Monte Bello Collector Member

You requested some personal stories for the Ridge 60’th Anniv. Below are a few of my stories. Some of them may even be true!! I just sat down & wrote from the top of my head, so the narrative is not very polished.

  1. Hew Crane: During the Manhattan Project to invent the Atomic Bomb, carried out at Los Alamos, there were no computers yet invented. Calculations, remarkably accurate, were made using mechanical calculators and punched card adding machines. The first general purpose computer was the ENIAC, invented by Presper Eckhert and John Mauchly at the University of Pennsylvania and completed in 1946 after the War’s end. It was very difficult to program and required lots of wires in a programmable plugboards to communicate the instructions to the computer. It was not really a general-purpose computer, though it used thousands of electronic vacuum tubes.
    During the war, the Hungarian Jewish emigre who had fled the Nazis, Johnny von Neumann, was a frequent consultant to Los Alamos. He was also heavily involved in the ENIAC project whilst on leave from the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS). After the War, he proposed the first general purpose electronic computer in which the instructions were stored within the memory of the computer and easily modified…the birth certificate for modern computers.
    When Johnny returned to IAS, his goal was to build just such a computer. Being a high-level mathematician, he realized to do so he would need somebody who was good with a soldering iron to build the thing. From his ENIAC days, he had met an engineer by the name of Hew Crane who he felt was just the man for the task. So he proposed that the IAS place Hew on the staff. There was immediately a great hew & cry from the IAS staff, lead by famous mathematician Kurt Godel and famous physicist Albert Einstein, objecting to having Hew named to the IAS staff.
    Hew was lacking a PhD and only…pfffttt…an engineer and they felt it would dilute the prestige of the IAS staff. Fortunately, they were overuled by the IAS director, J.Robert Oppenheimer, the Father of the Atomic Bomb.
    After Hew completed his work at Princeton, he went to the Stanford Research Institute where he made many contributions to computer technology. Whilst at SRI, he met several co-workers: Dave Bennion, Howard Ziedler, and Charlie Rosen. They purchased some property atop Monte Bello Ridge, as a weekend retreat, which had vineyards and the defunct Perrone Winery. In ’60 & ’61, Dave made some home-made wines in the garage of his home. The four partners then rebonded the winery in 1962 and, as they say….the rest is history.
    During one of those home-made vintages, Dave & Fran were going to be away for a few weeks and Dave would not be present to do the punch-downs of the cap in the fermenting Cab. So he devised a wooden grid that would hold the cap below the surface of the fermenting wine in the vat. This was the orgins of the submerged cap fermentation, which leads to a gentler extraction of color & tannins, which is still used some at Ridge.
  2. Meeting Dave Bennion: Shortly after I came to Los Alamos, I discovered the glories of Ridge Zinfandels when I purchased them at Boulder’s famed Liquor Mart. So, in the Summer of 1974, I made my first trek up to 17100 MonteBello Road for an appointment with Dave Bennion. I arrived at this little graveled area with a small house and a nearby dilapidated barn/winery. There was dark green beat-up pickup truck between the two buildings with the hood up and some guy in a faded green plaid flannel shirt with a big bushy beard working away on the engine. I parked nearby and went to this auto mechanic and told him I was there to meet Dave Bennion. He sorta grunted at me & returned to work on the engine. I wandered up atop the nearby knoll & took in the spectacular view of the the South Bay to the East. After about 15 minutes, I returned to this bearded auto mechanic and announced “I’m Tom Hill and I have a 2:00pm appointment with Dave Benion. Would you fetch him for me”!! The mechanic grunted at me again, wiped his hands off on this greasy red rag, and grunted “Just a minute”. He then went into the nearby bathroom, I could hear him washing off his hands, and then came striding out of the bathroom towards me. He then gave me this huge smile, extended his hand and replied “Hi….I’m Dave Bennion”!! I felt like such a jerk. We had a good laugh several times over the years of our first meeting.
  3. Another Dave Bennion Encounter: In late October of 1975, the American Nuclear Society had their annual meeting in San Francisco and I arranged with Dave to bring 5-6 of these nuclear types up to Ridge to taste some wines. We met at the picnic table up on the knoll on a chilly/blustery day and tasted thru the just released ’73 reds, mostly Zinfandels. After an hour as our tasting was winding down, I made the comment to Dave that I really liked his reds, but that I thought his whites were “not too thrilling”. On release, they had a ton of oak, not a whole lot of fruit, a bit on the austere/chalky side, and not very rich/textured. Terroir-driven wines.
    Dave immediately took that as a challenge. He headed down into the Ridge library in the lower winery and emerged with a handful of old whites…White Riesling, Sylvaner, Chardonnay… from the mid-late ’60’s. He made a believer out of me. They had a very complex, slightly nutty/oxidative character you find in old white Burgundies and the valve oil of old German Riesling. He also brought up this half btl that he was warming in his crotch as we sat there on the knoll. It was the legendary ’66 or ’68 Monte Bello White Riesling TBA/botrytis wine. It was absolutely magnificant.
  4. Meeting Paul Draper: By the mid-’70’s, Paul had already established quite a reputation as the winemaker at Ridge. Sometime in the Summer of ’76, I made an appointment with Paul to meet him and walk a bit of the Monte Bello vnyd. When I arrived, Paul asked me if I minded if a couple of others joined our tour. “Of course not”!! Shortly later this curly-headed guy arrived with about 2-3 of his friends…none of whom could speak a lick of English. Paul introduced this guy to me as Jeremiah Tower and spoke to the others in a bit of French to welcome them. At the time, I had no clue who Jeremiah Tower was. He was, at that time, the primary chef and partner at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse and developing quite a reputation for helping develop California Cusine. He had a couple of his French chef friends (undoubtedly very famous) in town and wanted to treat them to the Ridge experience.
    We walked part of the Monte Bello vnyd near the lower winery and Paul regaled us with the history of MonteBello and pointed out some of the vines. We then adjourned to the old part of the upper winery (the new part where MB Cabernet was aged had not yet been built) and tasted a bit from barrel. I had lots of questions I was asking Paul and he spent most of his time answering those questions. Towards the end of our visit, I began to sense that Jeremiah Tower was a bit miffed that Paul was paying so much attention to me & my questions. I, of course, subsequently learned of the famous Jerimiah Tower & his reputation. Years later, when we met again at his Santa Fe Bar & Grill in Berkeley and his Stars restaurant in San Francisco, we shared recollections of that visit and had a good laugh over it.
  5. Krista Bennion Feeney: Krista is a world-reknowned violinist with the St.Luke’s Chamber Ensemble. She was the founder of the Ridge String Quartet in the Palo Alto area. In the early ’90’s, she made a guest appearance at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. This was only a few yrs after her Dad was killed in an auto accident on the Golden Gate Bridge. I attended one of the rehearsals at the St.Francis Auditorium and introduced myself to her at the conclusion. I then proceeded to relate to Krista my story above of meeting her Dad. When I finished, she commented “That would be my Dad” as tears were streaming down her face.
  6. Ridge Coast Range Zinfandel 1973: Back in the early ’70’s, Ridge made a number of red wines from purchased/non- MonteBello, mostly Zinfandel but also a Pinot Noir. In the Fall of ’75, upon its release, we tried the Coast Range Zinfandel ’73. Which sold at Liquor Mart for all of $2.99/btl. I was blown away by how good it was for the $$$’s.
    At the time, Boulder’s Liquor Mart was one of the Nations leading wine stores. Led by legends Phil Reich (later of Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica) and Rene Rondeau (late of Draper-Esquin’s in San Francisco). Joseph Phelps got his wine education from them when he was running Joseph Phelps Construction in Colorado & afore he started Joseph Phelps Wnry in St.Helena. Its reputation was such that even some Calif winemakers would buy their wines from Liquor Mart, mainly because of their low markups on imported wines.
    When my group tasted this first btl of the ’73, we were all so impressed that I put together a group order from Liquor Mart. We got enough orders for… almost 75 cases. The CO distributor had to put together a special order from Ridge to accomodate our needs. In the early Spring of ’76, I rented in Los Alamos a U-Haul trailer, hooked it up to my poor ’68 Slant-6 Dodge Dart, and trekked off to Boulder to retrieve our Ridges. Made it back without any incident, but the poor Dart struggled crossing LaVeta Pass. Lots of CoastRange ’73 made it into a lot of LosAlamos cellars at $2.79/btl and provided a lot of good drinking. Wouldn’t be surprised that a few btls still lurk around in LosAlamos.
    At the time, the NewMexico law read that you were allowed to bring into NM a “reasonable” amount of wine for your own personal use. I considered 75 cases an awfully danged “reasonable” amount. Fortunately, I was not stopped by some tin-horned County Sheriff out in the wilds of Northern New Mexico.
  7. Donn Reisen: Donn started working at Ridge in 1977, working harvest. He eventually became VP of marketing and eventually Prez of Ridge after Wilma Sturrock’s retirement. He became the public face of Ridge even more so than Paul.
    He had extremely good people skills & was widely liked throughout the wine community.
    Donn often represented Ridge at the SantaFe Wine&Chile Fiesta. We often held the Dave Jones Memorial Potluck during SFW&CF and would invite winemakers we knew. About ’79, Donn was the Ridge rep and attended our Potluck. He knew of my passion for Syrah & Calif Rhones, so brought a newly bottled first Ridge Syrah from Lytton Springs, the ’96. When he opened it for me & I tasted it, he could tell that I was not all that impressed. To me, it just tasted like another (very good) Ridge red but didn’t shout of Calif Syrah. Donn put his hand on my shoulder and in a very avuncular manner “Tom, just give it some age”. He was, of course, exactly right. With about 10 yrs of age, it evolved into a spectacular Syrah the stature of an older Geyserville or LyttonSprings, yet still speaking more of great Ridge red and much different than most Calif Syrahs…but still a great Ridge red.
    Around 2005, Donn was again the Ridge rep at SFW&CF. Susan & I helped him pour at the grand tasting, allowing him to visit with his many fans that were eager to chat. Midway thru the tasting, the Somm from the Blue Star restaurant up in Colorado Springs, a restaurant with an extraordinary wine list, approached the table to meet Donn and relate how Ridge was about his favorite wine on the list. After he tasted the wines, he asked Donn if he could have the Ridge-logo waiter’s corkscrew he was using. Alas, it was our only corkscrew and we had many more btls to open.
    As the tasting was winding down towards the end, Donn plunged into the (rather rowdy) crowd to search out the Blue Star Somm and give him the Ridge corkscrew. He got the Somm’s card and when he got back to Ridge, made arrangements to have six of the Ridge corkscrews shipped to Blue Star. When I ate at Blue Star several yrs later, our waiter was still using a Ridge corkscrew.
    Unfortunately, Donn died in 2009. He is greatly missed by all the Ridge fans who knew him. He was one of a kind and left many fond memories behind of him for us.
  8. Aspen F&W Festival: In the early-mid ’90’s, I would often attend the Aspen Food & Wine Festival. Paul & Maureen Draper frequently attended because it gave them an opportunity to get in some serious mountain biking. One year, Paul was serving on a panel talking/tasting Calif Petite Sirahs, of which the Ridge York Creek was one of the greatest made in Calif. When it came Paul’s turn to speak, he stood up and started his delivery. Unfortunately, the front of his tan shorts was unzipped, revealing his tighty-whiteys underneath for all to see. I was front & center, about 6′ from Paul. I hastily scribbled on a piece of paper in large letters “ZIPPER” and held it up discretely for him to see. He gave me this sheepish grin, calmly reached down & zipped up without batting an eye, not missing a single word in his delivery.
    I would often rent a condo at Aspen for a group of my Los Alamos friends to stay & make communal meals. Often we would invite winemakers to join us for dinner, knowing they would bring some good wine (not that we didn’t have any ourselves). This one year, we invited both Paul and Darrell Corti to dinner. After dinner, we all sat around the table listening to these two wine legends exchange stories & banter on a wide variety of topics. It was well after midnight when we finally broke up. An absolutely fascinating evening of great conversation.
  9. Turley Zins: When the Turley winery was founded in 1993, Larry Turley retained his sister, Helen Turley as their first winemaker. She had a distinct style of making Zins….high in alcohol, high in extract, high in oak…
    Zins well over the top & a huge contrast from the traditional Ridge style. However, they received huge scores out of Monktown and rapidly developed a cult following.
    Ever year, when I would receive my Turley shipment, I would immediately taste them and write up my tasting notes and post them to the Internet UseGroup alt.food.wine. Because I would often include some Ridges Zins, I would usually send my TN’s to Paul. Apparently, Paul had a file on me that he kept my TN’s & other communications (probably still has it filed away).
    Because my TN’s were rather wordy, made for very tedious reading, and very (long/boring), I once inserted a fake TN on a legendary Turley Smoot-Hawley Vnyd White Zin to see if anybody was reading the TN’s. Nobody picked up on it until much later and the Turley Smoot-Hawley White Zin became a true unicorn wine.
    When Stephen Brook was researching his “Wines of California” in the late 70’s, he visited with Paul up at Ridge and Paul apparently gave him the TomHill file to read. When his book came out, in the section discussing Zins, he described the origins of White Zinfandel in Calif. He then made an off-hand reference to a $79 White Zin as the most expensive one ever made in Calif. It was, of course, the Turley Smoot-Hawley White Zin, that he had picked up on.
  10. Occidental Zin: Starting about ’70, Ridge made a Zinfandel from the Robert von Weidlich vineyard up on Occidental Ridge. The vineyard was originally planted in 1892. This is a very cold area to grow Zin and the high acidity of the Occidental Zins reflected that fact. One year, Paul & Dave Gates drove up to Morelli Lane to bring back these von Weidlich grapes. When they arrived, they caught Robert dumping 5-lb bags of sugar on the bins of grapes in order to boost the sugar level. Eventually, Paul dropped the Occidental Zin because of the difficulty in ripening the grapes. It is now owned/farmed by Eric Sussman/Radio-Coteau who continues to make a great Zin from these grapes when he can ripen them. But the Ridge Occidental Zins of the ’70’s were legendary wines and some of the greatest Zins ever made at Ridge.